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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Enemies of Books, by William Blades This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: Enemies of Books Author: William Blades Release Date: August 26, 2008 [EBook #1302] Language: English Character set encoding: ASCII *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ENEMIES OF BOOKS ***
Produced by Charles Keller, and David Widger
THE ENEMIES OF BOOKS
By William Blades
Revised and Enlarged by the Author
SECOND EDITION LONDON ELLIOT STOCK, 62 PATERNOSTER ROW 1888
Transcriber's Note:  ae, L, e, [:], OE, [/], '0, and n "Larsen" encodes.  eS = superscripted e (16th cent. english on p9 needs proofed!)  [oe ] denotes words in 'olde englishe font'  "Emphasis" italics have a * mark.  Footnotes (#) have not been re-numbered, they are moved to EOParagraph.  Greek letters are encoded in [gr ] brackets, and the letters are  based on Adobe's Symbol font.
Contents
DETAILED CONTENTS. THE ENEMIES OF BOOKS. CHAPTER I. FIRE. CHAPTER II. WATER. CHAPTER III. GAS AND HEAT. CHAPTER IV. DUST AND NEGLECT. CHAPTER V. IGNORANCE AND BIGOTRY. CHAPTER VI. THE BOOKWORM. CHAPTER VII. OTHER VERMIN. CHAPTER VIII. BOOKBINDERS. CHAPTER IX. COLLECTORS. CHAPTER X. SERVANTS AND CHILDREN. CONCLUSION. INDEX.
CONTENTS.
CHAPTER I. FIRE. Libraries destroyed by Fire.—Alexandrian.—St. Paul's destruction of MSS., Value of.—Christian books destroyed by Heathens.—Heathen books destroyed by Christians.—Hebrew books burnt at Cremona.—Arabic books at Grenada.—Monastic libraries.—Colton library.—Birmingham riots.—Dr. Priestley's library.—Lord Mansfield's books.—Cowper. —Strasbourg library bombarded.—Offor Collection burnt.—Dutch Church library damaged.—Library of Corporation of London. CHAPTER II. WATER. Heer Hudde's library lost at sea.—Pinelli's library captured by Corsairs.—MSS. destroyed by Mohammed II—Books damaged by rain.—Woffenbuttel.—Vapour and Mould.—Brown stains.—Dr. Dibdin.—Hot water pipes.—Asbestos fire.—Glass doors to bookcases. CHAPTER III. GAS AND HEAT. Effects of Gas on leather.—Necessitates re-binding.—Bookbinders.—Electric light.—British Museum.—Treatment of books.—Legend of Friars and their books. CHAPTER IV. DUST AND NEGLECT. Books should have gilt tops.—Old libraries were neglected.—Instance of a College library.—Clothes brushed in it.—Abuses in French libraries.—Derome's account of them.—Boccaccio's story of library at the Convent of Mount Cassin. CHAPTER V. IGNORANCE AND BIGOTRY. Destruction of Books at the Reformation.—Mazarin library.—Caxton used to light the fire.—Library at French Protestant Church, St. Martin's-le-Grand.—Books stolen.—Story of books from Thonock Hall.—Boke of St. Albans.—Recollet Monks of Antwerp.—Shakespearian "find."—Black-letter books used in W.C.—Gesta Romanorum.—Lansdowne collection.—Warburton.—Tradesman and rare book.—Parish Register.—Story of Bigotry by M. Muller.—Clergymen destroy books.—Patent Office sell books for waste.
CHAPTER VI. THE BOOKWORM. Doraston.—Not so destructive as of yore.—Worm won't eat parchment.—Pierre Petit's poem.—Hooke's account and image.—Its natural history neglected.—Various sorts—Attempts to breed Bookworms.—Greek worm.—Havoc made by worms.—Bodleian and Dr. Bandinel.—"Dermestes."—Worm won't eat modern paper.—America comparatively free.—Worm-hole at Philadelphia. CHAPTER VII. OTHER VERMIN. Black-beetle in American libraries.—germanica.—Bug Bible.—Lepisma. —Codfish.—Skeletons of Rats in Abbey library, Westminster.—Niptus hololeucos.—Tomicus Typographicus.—House flies injure books. CHAPTER VIII. BOOKBINDERS. A good binding gives pleasure.—Deadly effects of the "plough" as used by binders.—Not confined to bye-gone times.—Instances of injury.—De Rome, a good binder but a great cropper.—Books "hacked."—Bad lettering—Treasures in book-covers.—Books washed, sized, and mended.—"Cases" often Preferable to re-binding. CHAPTER IX. COLLECTORS. Bagford the biblioclast.—Illustrations torn from MSS.—Title-pages torn from books.—Rubens, his engraved titles.—Colophons torn out of books.—Lincoln Cathedral—Dr. Dibdin's Nosegay.—Theurdanck.—Fragments of MSS.—Some libraries almost useless.—Pepysian.—Teylerian.—Sir Thomas Phillipps. CHAPTER X. SERVANTS AND CHILDREN. Library invaded for the purpose of dusting.—Spring clean.—-Dust to be got rid of.—Ways of doing so.—Carefulness praised.—Bad nature of certain books—Metal clasps and rivets.—How to dust.—Children often injure books.—Examples.—Story of boys in a country library. POSTSCRIPTUM. Anecdote of book-sale in Derbyshire. CONCLUSION. The care that should be taken of books.—Enjoyment derived from them. ILLUSTRATIONS. SERVANT USING A "CAXTON" TO LIGHT THE FIRE —-Frontispiece, PIRATES THROWING LIBRARY OVER-BOARD ————— page 19 FRIARS AND THEIR ASS-LOAD —————————— 35 BRUSHING CLOTHES IN A COLLEGE LIBRARY ———— 45 BOOKWORMS —————————————————— 73 RATS DESTROYING BOOKS ———————————— 99 HOUSEHOLD FLY-DAMAGE ———————————— 102 BOYS RAMPANT IN LIBRARY ——————————— 141
THE ENEMIES OF BOOKS.
CHAPTER I. FIRE. THERE are many of the forces of Nature which tend to injure Books; but among them all not one has been half so destructive as Fire. It would be tedious to write out a bare list only of the numerous libraries and bibliographical treasures which, in one way or another, have been seized by the Fire-king as his own. Chance conflagrations, fanatic incendiarism, judicial bonfires, and even household stoves have, time after time, thinned the treasures as well as the rubbish of past ages, until, probably, not one thousandth part of the books that have been are still extant. This destruction cannot, however, be reckoned as all loss; for had not the "cleansing fires" removed mountains of rubbish from our midst, strong destructive measures would have become a necessity from sheer want of space in which to store so many volumes.
Before the invention of Printing, books were comparatively scarce; and, knowing as we do, how very difficult it is, even after the steam-press has been working for half a century, to make a collection of half a million books, we are forced to receive with great incredulity the accounts in old writers of the wonderful extent of ancient libraries. The historian Gibbon, very incredulous in many things, accepts without questioning the fables told upon this subject. No doubt the libraries of MSS. collected generation after generation by the Egyptian Ptolemies became, in the course of time, the most extensive ever then known; and were famous throughout the world for the costliness of their ornamentation, and importance of their untold contents. Two of these were at Alexandria, the larger of which was in the quarter called Bruchium. These volumes, like all manuscripts of those early ages, were written on sheets of parchment, having a wooden roller at each end so that the reader needed only to unroll a portion at a time. During Caesar's Alexandrian War, B.C. 48, the larger collection was consumed by fire and again burnt by the Saracens in A.D. 640. An immense loss was inflicted upon mankind thereby; but when we are told of 700,000, or even 500,000 of such volumes being destroyed we instinctively feel that such numbers must be a great exaggeration. Equally incredulous must we be when we read of half a million volumes being burnt at Carthage some centuries later, and other similar accounts. Among the earliest records of the wholesale destruction of Books is that narrated by St. Luke, when, after the preaching of Paul, many of the Ephesians "which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it 50,000 pieces of silver" (Acts xix, 19). Doubtless these books of idolatrous divination and alchemy, of enchantments and witchcraft, were righteously destroyed by those to whom they had been and might again be spiritually injurious; and doubtless had they escaped the fire then, not one of them would have survived to the present time, no MS. of that age being now extant. Nevertheless, I must confess to a certain amount of mental disquietude and uneasiness when I think of books worth 50,000 denarii—or, speaking roughly, say L18,750, (1) of our modern money being made into bonfires. What curious illustrations of early heathenism, of Devil worship, of Serpent worship, of Sun worship, and other archaic forms of religion; of early astrological and chemical lore, derived from the Egyptians, the Persians, the Greeks; what abundance of superstitious observances and what is now termed "Folklore"; what riches, too, for the philological student, did those many books contain, and how famous would the library now be that could boast of possessing but a few of them. (1) The received opinion is that the "pieces of silver" here mentioned were Roman denarii, which were the silver pieces then commonly used in Ephesus. If now we weigh a denarius against modern silver, it is exactly equal to ninepence, and fifty thousand times ninepence gives L1,875. It is always a difficult matter to arrive at a just estimate of the relative value of the same coin in different ages; but reckoning that money then had at least ten times the purchasing value of money now, we arrive at what was probably about the value of the magical books burnt, viz.: L18,750. The ruins of Ephesus bear unimpeachable evidence that the City was very extensive and had magnificent buildings. It was one of the free cities, governing itself. Its trade in shrines and idols was very extensive, being spread through all known lands. There the magical arts were remarkably prevalent, and notwithstanding the numerous converts made by the early Christians, the [gr 'Efesia grammata], or little scrolls upon which magic sentences were written, formed an extensive trade up to the fourth century. These "writings" were used for divination, as a protection against the "evil eye," and generally as charms against all evil. They were carried about the person, so that probably thousands of them were thrown into the flames by St. Paul's hearers when his glowing words convinced them of their superstition. Imagine an open space near the grand Temple of Diana, with fine buildings around. Slightly raised above the crowd, the Apostle, preaching with great power and persuasion concerning superstition, holds in thrall the assembled multitude. On the outskirts of the crowd are numerous bonfires, upon which Jew and Gentile are throwing into the flames bundle upon bundle of scrolls, while an Asiarch with his peace-officers looks on with the conventional stolidity of policemen in all ages and all nations. It must have been an impressive scene, and many a worse subject has been chosen for the walls of the Royal Academy. Books in those early times, whether orthodox or heterodox, appear to have had a precarious existence. The heathens at each fresh outbreak of persecution burnt all the Christian writings they could find, and the Christians, when they got the upper hand, retaliated with interest upon the pagan literature. The Mohammedan reason for destroying books—"If they contain what is in the Koran they are superfluous, and if they contain anything opposed to it they are immoral," seems, indeed,mutatis mutandis, to have been the general rule for all such devastators. The Invention of Printing made the entire destruction of any author's works much more difficult, so quickly and so extensively did books spread through all lands. On the other hand, as books multiplied, so did destruction go hand in hand with production, and soon were printed books doomed to suffer in the same penal fires, that up to then had been fed on MSS. only. At Cremona, in 1569, 12,000 books printed in Hebrew were publicly burnt as heretical, simply on account of their language; and Cardinal Ximenes, at the capture of Granada, treated 5,000 copies of the Koran in the same way. At the time of the Reformation in England a great destruction of books took place. The antiquarian Bale, writing in 1587, thus speaks of the shameful fate of the Monastic libraries:—
"A greate nombre of them whyche purchased those superstycyouse mansyons (Monasteries) reserved of those librarye bookes some to serve their jakes, some to scoure theyr candelstyckes, and some to rubbe theyr bootes. Some they solde to the grossers and sope sellers, and some they sent over see to yeS booke bynders, not in small nombre, but at tymes whole shyppes full, to yeS, wonderynge of foren nacyons. Yea yeS. Universytees of thys realme are not alle clere in thys detestable fact. But cursed is that bellye whyche seketh to be fedde with suche ungodlye gaynes, and so depelye shameth hys natural conterye. I knowe a merchant manne, whych shall at thys tyme be namelesse, that boughte yeS contentes of two noble lybraryes for forty shyllynges pryce: a shame it is to be spoken. Thys stuffe hathe heoccupyed in yeS stede of greye paper, by yeS, space of more than these ten yeares, and yet he bathe store ynoughe for as manye years to come. A prodygyous example is thys, and to be abhorred of all men whyche love theyr nacyon as they shoulde do. The monkes kepte them undre dust, yeS, ydle-headed prestes regarded them not, theyr latter owners have most shamefully abused them, and yeS covetouse merchantes have solde them away into foren nacyons for moneye." How the imagination recoils at the idea of Caxton's translation of the Metamorphoses of Ovid, or perhaps his "Lyf of therle of Oxenforde," together with many another book from our first presses, not a fragment of which do we now possess, being used for baking "pyes. " At the Great Fire of London in 1666, the number of books burnt was enormous. Not only in private houses and Corporate and Church libraries were priceless collections reduced to cinders, but an immense stock of books removed from Paternoster Row by the Stationers for safety was burnt to ashes in the vaults of St. Paul's Cathedral. Coming nearer to our own day, how thankful we ought to be for the preservation of the Cotton Library. Great was the consternation in the literary world of 1731 when they heard of the fire at Ashburnham House, Westminster, where, at that time, the Cotton MSS. were deposited. By great exertions the fire was conquered, but not before many MSS. had been quite destroyed and many others injured. Much skill was shown in the partial restoration of these books, charred almost beyond recognition; they were carefully separated leaf by leaf, soaked in a chemical solution, and then pressed flat between sheets of transparent paper. A curious heap of scorched leaves, previous to any treatment, and looking like a monster wasps' nest, may be seen in a glass case in the MS. department of the British Museum, showing the condition to which many other volumes had been reduced. Just a hundred years ago the mob, in the "Birmingham Riots," burnt the valuable library of Dr. Priestley, and in the "Gordon Riots" were burnt the literary and other collections of Lord Mansfield, the celebrated judge, he who had the courage first to decide that the Slave who reached the English shore was thenceforward a free man. The loss of the latter library drew from the poet Cowper two short and weak poems. The poet first deplores the destruction of the valuable printed books, and then the irretrievable loss to history by the burning of his Lordship's many personal manuscripts and contemporary documents.  "Their pages mangled, burnt and torn,  The loss was his alone;  But ages yet to come shall mourn           The burning of his own." The second poem commences with the following doggerel:—       "When Wit and Genius meet their doom           In all-devouring Flame,  They tell us of the Fate of Rome  And bid us fear the same." The much finer and more extensive library of Dr. Priestley was left unnoticed and unlamented by the orthodox poet, who probably felt a complacent satisfaction at the destruction of heterodox books, the owner being an Unitarian Minister. The magnificent library of Strasbourg was burnt by the shells of the German Army in 1870. Then disappeared for ever, together with other unique documents, the original records of the famous law-suits between Gutenberg, one of the first Printers, and his partners, upon the right understanding of which depends the claim of Gutenberg to the invention of the Art. The flames raged between high brick walls, roaring louder than a blast furnace. Seldom, indeed, have Mars and Pluto had so dainty a sacrifice offered at their shrines; for over all the din of battle, and the reverberation of monster artillery, the burning leaves of the first printed Bible and many another priceless volume were wafted into the sky, the ashes floating for miles on the heated air, and carrying to the astonished countryman the first news of the devastation of his Capital. When the Offor Collection was put to the hammer by Messrs Sotheby and Wilkinson, the well-known auctioneers of Wellington Street, and when about three days of the sale had been gone through, a Fire occurred in the adjoining house, and, gaining possession of the Sale Rooms, made a speedy end of the unique Bunyan and other rarities then on show. I was allowed to see the Ruins on the following day, and by means of a ladder and some scrambling managed to enter the Sale Room where parts of the floor still remained. It was a fearful sight those scorched rows of Volumes still on the shelves; and curious was it to notice how the flames, burning off the backs of the books first, had then run up behind the shelves, and so attacked the fore-edge of the volumes standing upon them, leaving the majority with a perfectly untouched oval centre of white paper and plain print, while the whole surrounding parts were but a mass of black cinders. The salva e was sold in one lot for a small sum, and the urchaser, after a ood deal of sortin
and mending and binding placed about 1,000 volumes for sale at Messrs. Puttick and Simpson's in the following year. So, too, when the curious old Library which was in a gallery of the Dutch Church, Austin Friars, was nearly destroyed in the fire which devastated the Church in 1862, the books which escaped were sadly injured. Not long before I had spent some hours there hunting for English Fifteenth-century Books, and shall never forget the state of dirt in which I came away. Without anyone to care for them, the books had remained untouched for many a decade-damp dust, half an inch thick, having settled upon them! Then came the fire, and while the roof was all ablaze streams of hot water, like a boiling deluge, washed down upon them. The wonder was they were not turned into a muddy pulp. After all was over, the whole of the library, no portion of which could legally be given away, waslent for everto the Corporation of London. Scorched and sodden, the salvage came into the hands of Mr. Overall, their indefatigable librarian. In a hired attic, he hung up the volumes that would bear it over strings like clothes, to dry, and there for weeks and weeks were the stained, distorted volumes, often without covers, often in single leaves, carefully tended and dry-nursed. Washing, sizing, pressing, and binding effected wonders, and no one who to-day looks upon the attractive little alcove in the Guildhall Library labelled [oe "Bibliotheca Ecclesiae Londonino-Belgiae"] and sees the rows of handsomely-lettered backs, could imagine that not long ago this, the most curious portion of the City's literary collections, was in a state when a five-pound note would have seemed more than full value for the lot.
CHAPTER II. WATER. NEXT to Fire we must rank Water in its two forms, liquid and vapour, as the greatest destroyer of books. Thousands of volumes have been actually drowned at Sea, and no more heard of them than of the Sailors to whose charge they were committed. D'Israeli narrates that, about the year 1700, Heer Hudde, an opulent burgomaster of Middleburgh, travelled for 30 years disguised as a mandarin, throughout the length and breadth of the Celestial Empire. Everywhere he collected books, and his extensive literary treasures were at length safely shipped for transmission to Europe, but, to the irreparable loss of his native country, they never reached their destination, the vessel having foundered in a storm. In 1785 died the famous Maffei Pinelli, whose library was celebrated throughout the world. It had been collected by the Pinelli family for many generations and comprised an extraordinary number of Greek, Latin, and Italian works, many of them first editions, beautifully illuminated, together with numerous MSS. dating from the 11th to the 16th century. The whole library was sold by the Executors to Mr. Edwards, bookseller, of Pall Mall, who placed the volumes in three vessels for transport from Venice to London. Pursued by Corsairs, one of the vessels was captured, but the pirate, disgusted at not finding any treasure, threw all the books into the sea. The other two vessels escaped and delivered their freight safely, and in 1789-90 the books which had been so near destruction were sold at the great room in Conduit Street, for more than L9,000. These pirates were more excusable than Mohammed II who, upon the capture of Constantinople in the 15th century, after giving up the devoted city to be sacked by his licentious soldiers, ordered the books in all the churches as well as the great library of the Emperor Constantine, containing 120,000 Manuscripts, to be thrown into the sea. In the shape of rain, water has frequently caused irreparable injury. Positive wet is fortunately of rare occurrence in a library, but is very destructive when it does come, and, if long continued, the substance of the paper succumbs to the unhealthy influence and rots and rots until all fibre disappears, and the paper is reduced to a white decay which crumbles into powder when handled. Few old libraries in England are now so thoroughly neglected as they were thirty years ago. The state of many of our Collegiate and Cathedral libraries was at that time simply appalling. I could mention many instances, one especially, where a window having been left broken for a long time, the ivy had pushed through and crept over a row of books, each of which was worth hundreds of pounds. In rainy weather the water was conducted, as by a pipe, along the tops of the books and soaked through the whole. In another and smaller collection, the rain came straight on to a book-case through a sky-light, saturating continually the top shelf containing Caxtons and other early English books, one of which, although rotten, was sold soon after by permission of the Charity Commissioners for L200. Germany, too, the very birth-place of Printing, allows similar destruction to go on unchecked, if the following letter, which appeared about a Year ago (1879) in theAcademyhas any truth in it:— "For some time past the condition of the library at Wolfenbuttel has been most disgraceful. The building is in so unsafe a condition that portions of the walls and ceilings have fallen in, and the many treasures in Books and MSS. contained in it are exposed to damp and decay. An appeal has been issued that this valuable collection may not be allowed to perish for want of funds, and that it may also be now at length removed to Brunswick, since Wolfenbuttel is entirely deserted as an intellectual centre. No false sentimentality regarding the memory of its former custodians, Leibnitz and Lessing, should hinder this ro ect. Lessin himself would have been the first to ur e that the librar and its utilit should be considered
above all things." The collection of books at Wolfenbuttel is simply magnificent, and I cannot but hope the above report was exaggerated. Were these books to be injured for the want of a small sum spent on the roof, it would be a lasting disgrace to the nation. There are so many genuine book-lovers in Fatherland that the commission of such a crime would seem incredible, did not bibliographical history teem with similar desecrations. (1) (1) This was written in 1879, since which time a new building has been erected. Water in the form of vapour is a great enemy of books, the damp attacking both outside and inside. Outside it fosters the growth of a white mould or fungus which vegetates upon the edges of the leaves, upon the sides and in the joints of the binding. It is easily wiped off, but not without leaving a plain mark, where the mould-spots have been. Under the microscope a mould-spot is seen to be a miniature forest of lovely trees, covered with a beautiful white foliage, upas trees whose roots are embedded in the leather and destroy its texture. Inside the book, damp encourages the growth of those ugly brown spots which so often disfigure prints and "livres de luxe." Especially it attacks books printed in the early part of this century, when paper-makers had just discovered that they could bleach their rags, and perfectly white paper, well pressed after printing, had become the fashion. This paper from the inefficient means used to neutralise the bleach, carried the seeds of decay in itself, and when exposed to any damp soon became discoloured with brown stains. Dr. Dibdin's extravagant bibliographical works are mostly so injured; and although the Doctor's bibliography is very incorrect, and his spun-out inanities and wearisome affectations often annoy one, yet his books are so beautifully illustrated, and he is so full of personal anecdote and chit chat, that it grieves the heart to see foxey" stains common in his most superb works. " In a perfectly dry and warm library these spots would probably remain undeveloped, but many endowed as well as private libraries are not in daily use, and are often injured from a false idea that a hard frost and prolonged cold do no injury to a library so long as the weather is dry. The fact is that books should never be allowed to get really cold, for when a thaw comes and the weather sets in warm, the air, laden with damp, penetrates the inmost recesses, and working its way between the volumes and even between the leaves, deposits upon their cold surface its moisture. The best preventative of this is a warm atmosphere during the frost, sudden heating when the frost has gone being useless. Our worst enemies are sometimes our real friends, and perhaps the best way of keeping libraries entirely free from damp is to circulate our enemy in the shape of hot water through pipes laid under the floor. The facilities now offered for heating such pipes from the outside are so great, the expense comparatively so small, and the direct gain in the expulsion of damp so decided, that where it can be accomplished without much trouble it is well worth the doing. At the same time no system of heating should be allowed to supersede the open grate, which supplies a ventilation to the room as useful to the health of the books as to the health of the occupier. A coal fire is objectionable on many grounds. It is dangerous, dirty and dusty. On the other hand an asbestos fire, where the lumps are judiciously laid, gives all the warmth and ventilation of a common fire without any of its annoyances; and to any one who loves to be independent of servants, and to know that, however deeply he may sleep over his "copy," his fire will not fail to keep awake, an asbestos stove is invaluable. It is a mistake also to imagine that keeping the best bound volumes in a glass doored book-case is a preservative. The damp air will certainly penetrate, and as the absence of ventilation will assist the formation of mould, the books will be worse off than if they had been placed in open shelves. If security be desirable, by all means abolish the glass and place ornamental brass wire-work in its stead. Like the writers of old Cookery Books who stamped special receipts with the testimony of personal experience, I can say "probatum est."
CHAPTER III. GAS AND HEAT. WHAT a valuable servant is Gas, and how dreadfully we should cry out were it to be banished from our homes; and yet no one who loves his books should allow a single jet in his library, unless, indeed he can afford a "sun light," which is the form in which it is used in some public libraries, where the whole of the fumes are carried at once into the open air. Unfortunately, I can speak from experience of the dire effect of gas in a confined space. Some years ago when placing the shelves round the small room, which, by a euphemism, is called my library, I took the precaution of making two self-acting ventilators which communicated directly with the outer air just under the ceiling. For economy of space as well as of temper (for lamps of all kinds are sore trials), I had a gasalier of three lights over the table. The effect was to cause great heat in the upper regions, and in the course of a year or two the leather valance which hung from the window, as well as the fringe which dropped half-an-inch from each shelf to keep out the dust, was just like tinder, and in some parts actually fell to the ground by its own wei ht; while the backs of the books u on the to shelves were erished, and crumbled awa when
touched, being reduced to the consistency of Scotch snuff. This was, of course, due to the sulphur in the gas fumes. I remember having a book some years ago from the top shelf in the library of the London Institution, where gas is used, and the whole of the back fell off in my hands, although the volume in other respects seemed quite uninjured. Thousands more were in a similar plight. As the paper of the volumes is uninjured, it might be objected that, after all, gas is not so much the enemy of the book itself as of its covering; but then, re-binding always leaves a book smaller, and often deprives it of leaves at the beginning or end, which the binder's wisdom has thought useless. Oh! the havoc I have seen committed by binders. You may assume your most impressive aspect—you may write down your instructions as if you were making your last will and testament—you may swear you will not pay if your books are ploughed—'tis all in vain—the creed of a binder is very short, and comprised in a single article, and that article is the one vile word "Shavings." But not now will I follow this depressing subject; binders, as enemies of books, deserve, and shall have, a whole chapter to themselves. It is much easier to decry gas than to find a remedy. Sun lights require especial arrangements, and are very expensive on account of the quantity of gas consumed. The library illumination of the future promises to be the electric light. If only steady and moderate in price, it would be a great boon to public libraries, and perhaps the day is not far distant when it will replace gas, even in private houses. That will, indeed, be a day of jubilee to the literary labourer. The injury done by gas is so generally acknowledged by the heads of our national libraries, that it is strictly excluded from their domains, although the danger from explosion and fire, even if the results of combustion were innocuous, would be sufficient cause for its banishment. The electric light has been in use for some months in the Reading Room of the British Museum, and is a great boon to the readers. The light is not quite equally diffused, and you must choose particular positions if you want to work happily. There is a great objection, too, in the humming fizz which accompanies the action of the electricity. There is a still greater objection when small pieces of hot chalk fall on your bald head, an annoyance which has been lately (1880) entirely removed by placing a receptacle beneath each burner. You require also to become accustomed to the whiteness of the light before you can altogether forget it. But with all its faults it confers a great boon upon students, enabling them not only to work three hours longer in the winter-time, but restoring to them the use of foggy and dark days, in which formerly no book-work at all could be pursued. (1) (1) 1887. The system in use is still "Siemens," but, owing to long experience and improvements, is not now open to the above objections. Heat alone, without any noxious fumes, is, if continuous, very injurious to books, and, without gas, bindings may be utterly destroyed by desiccation, the leather losing all its natural oils by long exposure to much heat. It is, therefore, a great pity to place books high up in a room where heat of any kind is as it must rise to the top, and if sufficient to be of comfort to the readers below, is certain to be hot enough above to injure the bindings. The surest way to preserve your books in health is to treat them as you would your own children, who are sure to sicken if confined in an atmosphere which is impure, too hot, too cold, too damp, or too dry. It is just the same with the progeny of literature. If any credence may be given to Monkish legends, books have sometimes been preserved in this world, only to meet a desiccating fate in the world to come. The story is probably an invention of the enemy to throw discredit on the learning and ability of the preaching Friars, an Order which was at constant war with the illiterate secular Clergy. It runs thus:—"In the year 1439, two Minorite friars who had all their lives collected books, died. In accordance with popular belief, they were at once conducted before the heavenly tribunal to hear their doom, taking with them two asses laden with books. At Heaven's gate the porter demanded, 'Whence came ye?' The Minorites replied 'From a monastery of St. Francis.' 'Oh!' said the porter, 'then St. Francis shall be your judge.' So that saint was summoned, and at sight of the friars and their burden demanded who they were, and why they had brought so many books with them. 'We are Minorites ' , they humbly replied, 'and we have brought these few books with us as a solatium in the new Jerusalem.' 'And you, when on earth, practised the good they teach?' sternly demanded the saint, who read their characters at a glance. Their faltering reply was sufficient, and the blessed saint at once passed judgment as follows:—'Insomuch as, seduced by a foolish vanity, and against your vows of poverty, you have amassed this multitude of books and thereby and therefor have neglected the duties and broken the rules of your Order, you are now sentenced to read your books for ever and ever in the fires of Hell.' Immediately, a roaring noise filled the air, and a flaming chasm opened in which friars, and asses and books were suddenly engulphed."
CHAPTER IV. DUST AND NEGLECT. DUST upon Books to any extent points to neglect, and neglect means more or less slow Decay. A well-gilt top to a book is a great preventive against damage by dust, while to leave books with rough tops and unprotected is sure to produce stains and dirty margins.
In olden times, when few persons had private collections of books, the collegiate and corporate libraries were of great use to students. The librarians' duties were then no sinecure, and there was little opportunity for dust to find a resting-place. The Nineteenth Century and the Steam Press ushered in a new era. By degrees the libraries which were unendowed fell behind the age, and were consequently neglected. No new works found their way in, and the obsolete old books were left uncared for and unvisited. I have seen many old libraries, the doors of which remained unopened from week's end to week's end; where you inhaled the dust of paper-decay with every breath, and could not take up a book without sneezing; where old boxes, full of older literature, served as preserves for the bookworm, without even an autumn "battue" to thin the breed. Occasionally these libraries were (I speak of thirty years ago) put even to vile uses, such as would have shocked all ideas of propriety could our ancestors have foreseen their fate. I recall vividly a bright summer morning many years ago, when, in search of Caxtons, I entered the inner quadrangle of a certain wealthy College in one of our learned Universities. The buildings around were charming in their grey tones and shady nooks. They had a noble history, too, and their scholarly sons were (and are) not unworthy successors of their ancestral renown. The sun shone warmly, and most of the casements were open. From one came curling a whiff of tobacco; from another the hum of conversation; from a third the tones of a piano. A couple of undergraduates sauntered on the shady side, arm in arm, with broken caps and torn gowns—proud insignia of their last term. The grey stone walls were covered with ivy, except where an old dial with its antiquated Latin inscription kept count of the sun's ascent. The chapel on one side, only distinguishable from the "rooms" by the shape of its windows, seemed to keep watch over the morality of the foundation, just as the dining-hall opposite, from whence issued a white-aproned cook, did of its worldly prosperity. As you trod the level pavement, you passed comfortable—nay, dainty —apartments, where lace curtains at the windows, antimacassars on the chairs, the silver biscuit-box and the thin-stemmed wine-glass moderated academic toils. Gilt-backed books on gilded shelf or table caught the eye, and as you turned your glance from the luxurious interiors to the well-shorn lawn in the Quad., with its classic fountain also gilded by sunbeams, the mental vision saw plainly written over the whole "The Union of Luxury and Learning." Surely here, thought I, if anywhere, the old world literature will be valued and nursed with gracious care; so with a pleasing sense of the general congruity of all around me, I enquired for the rooms of the librarian. Nobody seemed to be quite sure of his name, or upon whom the bibliographical mantle had descended. His post, it seemed, was honorary and a sinecure, being imposed, as a rule, upon the youngest "Fellow." No one cared for the appointment, and as a matter of course the keys of office had but distant acquaintance with the lock. At last I was rewarded with success, and politely, but mutely, conducted by the librarian into his kingdom of dust and silence. The dark portraits of past benefactors looked after us from their dusty old frames in dim astonishment as we passed, evidently wondering whether we meant "work"; book-decay—that peculiar flavour which haunts certain libraries—was heavy in the air, the floor was dusty, making the sunbeams as we passed bright with atoms; the shelves were dusty, the "stands" in the middle were thick with dust, the old leather table in the bow window, and the chairs on either side, were very dusty. Replying to a question, my conductor thought there was a manuscript catalogue of the Library somewhere, but thought, also, that it was not easy to find any books by it, and he knew not at the minute where to put his hand upon it. The Library, he said, was of little use now, as the Fellows had their own books and very seldom required 17th and 18th century editions, and no new books had been added to the collection for a long time. We passed down a few steps into an inner library where piles of early folios were wasting away on the ground. Beneath an old ebony table were two long carved oak chests. I lifted the lid of one, and at the top was a once-white surplice covered with dust, and beneath was a mass of tracts—Commonwealth quartos, unbound—a prey to worms and decay. All was neglect. The outer door of this room, which was open, was nearly on a level with the Quadrangle; some coats, and trousers, and boots were upon the ebony table, and a "gyp" was brushing away at them just within the door—in wet weather he performed these functions entirely within the library—as innocent of the incongruity of his position as my guide himself. Oh! Richard of Bury, I sighed, for a sharp stone from your sling to pierce with indignant sarcasm the mental armour of these College dullards. Happily, things are altered now, and the disgrace of such neglect no longer hangs on the College. Let us hope, in these days of revived respect for antiquity, no other College library is in a similar plight. Not Englishmen alone are guilty, however, of such unloving treatment of their bibliographical treasures. The following is translated from an interesting work just published in Paris, (1) and shows how, even at this very time, and in the centre of the literary activity of France, books meet their fate. (1) Le luxe des Livres par L. Derome. 8vo, Paris, 1879. M. Derome loquitur:— "Let us now enter the communal library of some large provincial town. The interior has a lamentable appearance; dust and disorder have made it their home. It has a librarian, but he has the consideration of a porter only, and goes but once a week to see the state of the books committed to his care; they are in a bad state, piled in heaps and perishing in corners for want of attention and binding. At this present time (1879) more than one public library in Paris could be mentioned in which thousands of books are received annually, all of which will have disappeared in the course of 50 years or so for want of binding; there are rare books, impossible to replace, falling to pieces because no care is given to them, that is to say, they are left unbound, a prey to dust and the worm, and cannot be touched without dismemberment."
"All history shows that this neglect belongs not to any particular age or nation. I extract the following story from Edmond Werdet's Histoire du Livre." (1) (1) "Histoire du Livre en France," par E. Werdet. 8vo, Paris, 1851. "The Poet Boccaccio, when travelling in Apulia, was anxious to visit the celebrated Convent of Mount Cassin, especially to see its library, of which he had heard much. He accosted, with great courtesy, one of the monks whose countenance attracted him, and begged him to have the kindness to show him the library. 'See for yourself,' said the monk, brusquely, pointing at the same time to an old stone staircase, broken with age. Boccaccio hastily mounted in great joy at the prospect of a grand bibliographical treat. Soon he reached the room, which was without key or even door as protection to its treasures. What was his astonishment to see that the grass growing in the window-sills actually darkened the room, and that all the books and seats were an inch thick in dust. In utter astonishment he lifted one book after another. All were manuscripts of extreme antiquity, but all were dreadfully dilapidated. Many had lost whole sections which had been violently extracted, and in many all the blank margins of the vellum had been cut away. In fact, the mutilation was thorough. "Grieved at seeing the work and the wisdom of so many illustrious men fallen into the hands of custodians so unworthy, Boccaccio descended with tears in his eyes. In the cloisters he met another monk, and enquired of him how the MSS. had become so mutilated. 'Oh!' he replied, 'we are obliged, you know, to earn a few sous for our needs, so we cut away the blank margins of the manuscripts for writing upon, and make of them small books of devotion, which we sell to women and children." As a postscript to this story, Mr. Timmins, of Birmingham, informs me that the treasures of the Monte Cassino Library are better cared for now than in Boccaccio's days, the worthy prior being proud of his valuable MSS. and very willing to show them. It will interest many readers to know that there is now a complete printing office, lithographic as well as typographic, at full work in one large room of the Monastery, where their wonderful MS. of Dante has been already reprinted, and where other fac-simile works are now in progress.
CHAPTER V. IGNORANCE AND BIGOTRY. IGNORANCE, though not in the same category as fire and water, is a great destroyer of books. At the Reformation so strong was the antagonism of the people generally to anything like the old idolatry of the Romish Church, that they destroyed by thousands books, secular as well as sacred, if they contained but illuminated letters. Unable to read, they saw no difference between romance and a psalter, between King Arthur and King David; and so the paper books with all their artistic ornaments went to the bakers to heat their ovens, and the parchment manuscripts, however beautifully illuminated, to the binders and boot makers. There is another kind of ignorance which has often worked destruction, as shown by the following anecdote, which is extracted from a letter written in 1862 by M. Philarete Chasles to Mr. B. Beedham, of Kimbolton:— "Ten years ago, when turning out an old closet in the Mazarin Library, of which I am librarian, I discovered at the bottom, under a lot of old rags and rubbish, a large volume. It had no cover nor title-page, and had been used to light the fires of the librarians. This shows how great was the negligence towards our literary treasure before the Revolution; for the pariah volume, which, 60 years before, had been placed in the Invalides, and which had certainly formed part of the original Mazarin collections, turned out to be a fine and genuine Caxton. " I saw this identical volume in the Mazarin Library in April, 1880. It is a noble copy of the First Edition of the "Golden Legend," 1483, but of course very imperfect. Among the millions of events in this world which cross and re-cross one another, remarkable coincidences must often occur; and a case exactly similar to that at the Mazarin Library, happened about the same time in London, at the French Protestant Church, St. Martin's-le-Grand. Many years ago I discovered there, in a dirty pigeon hole close to the grate in the vestry, a fearfully mutilated copy of Caxton's edition of the Canterbury Tales, with woodcuts. Like the book at Paris, it had long been used, leaf by leaf, in utter ignorance of its value, to light the vestry fire. Originally worth at least L800, it was then worth half, and, of course, I energetically drew the attention of the minister in charge to it, as well as to another grand Folio by Rood and Hunte, 1480. Some years elapsed, and then the Ecclesiastical Commissioners took the foundation in hand, but when at last Trustees were appointed, and the valuable library was re-arranged and catalogued, this "Caxton," together with the fine copy of "Latterbury" from the first Oxford Press, had disappeared entirely. Whatever ignorance may have been displayed in the mutilation, quite another word should be applied to the disappearance. The following anecdote is soaproposalthough it has lately appeared in No. 1 of, that The Antiquary, I cannot resist the temptation of re-printing it, as a warning to inheritors of old libraries. The account was copied by me years ago from a letter written in 1847, by the Rev. C. F. Newmarsh, Rector of Pelham, to the
Rev. S. R. Maitland, Librarian to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and is as follows:— "In June, 1844, a pedlar called at a cottage in Blyton and asked an old widow, named Naylor, whether she had any rags to sell. She answered, No! but offered him some old paper, and took from a shelf the 'Boke of St. Albans' and others, weighing 9 lbs., for which she received 9d. The pedlar carried them through Gainsborough tied up in string, past a chemist's shop, who, being used to buy old paper to wrap his drugs in, called the man in, and, struck by the appearance of the 'Boke,' gave him 3s. for the lot. Not being able to read the Colophon, he took it to an equally ignorant stationer, and offered it to him for a guinea, at which price he declined it, but proposed that it should be exposed in his window as a means of eliciting some information about it. It was accordingly placed there with this label, 'Very old curious work.' A collector of books went in and offered half-a-crown for it, which excited the suspicion of the vendor. Soon after Mr. Bird, Vicar of Gainsborough, went in and asked the price, wishing to possess a very early specimen of printing, but not knowing the value of the book. While he was examining it, Stark, a very intelligent bookseller, came in, to whom Mr. Bird at once ceded the right of pre-emption. Stark betrayed such visible anxiety that the vendor, Smith, declined setting a price. Soon after Sir C. Anderson, of Lea (author of Ancient Models), came in and took away the book to collate, but brought it back in the morning having found it imperfect in the middle, and offered L5 for it. Sir Charles had no book of reference to guide him to its value. But in the meantime, Stark had employed a friend to obtain for him the refusal of it, and had undertaken to give for it a little more than any sum Sir Charles might offer. On finding that at least L5 could be got for it, Smith went to the chemist and gave him two guineas, and then sold it to Stark's agent for seven guineas. Stark took it to London, and sold it at once to the Rt. Hon. Thos. Grenville for seventy pounds or guineas. "I have now shortly to state how it came that a book without covers of such extreme age was preserved. About fifty years since, the library of Thonock Hall, in the parish of Gainsborough, the seat of the Hickman family, underwent great repairs, the books being sorted over by a most ignorant person, whose selection seems to have been determined by the coat. All books without covers were thrown into a great heap, and condemned to all the purposes which Leland laments in the sack of the conventual libraries by the visitors. But they found favour in the eyes of a literate gardener, who begged leave to take what he liked home. He selected a large quantity of Sermons preached before the House of Commons, local pamphlets, tracts from 1680 to 1710, opera books, etc. He made a list of them, which I found afterwards in the cottage. In the list, No. 43 was 'Cotarmouris,' or the Boke of St. Albans. The old fellow was something of a herald, and drew in his books what he held to be his coat. After his death, all that could be stuffed into a large chest were put away in a garret; but a few favourites, and the 'Boke' among them remained on the kitchen shelves for years, till his son's widow grew so 'stalled' of dusting them that she determined to sell them. Had she been in poverty, I should have urged the buyer, Stark, the duty of giving her a small sum out of his great gains." Such chances as this do not fall to a man's lot twice; but Edmond Werdet relates a story very similar indeed, and where also the "plums" fell into the lap of a London dealer. In 1775, the Recollet Monks of Antwerp, wishing to make a reform, examined their library, and determined to get rid of about 1,500 volumes—some manuscript and some printed, but all of which they considered as old rubbish of no value. At first they were thrown into the gardener's rooms; but, after some months, they decided in their wisdom to give the whole refuse to the gardener as a recognition of his long services. This man, wiser in his generation than these simple fathers, took the lot to M. Vanderberg, an amateur and man of education. M. Vanderberg took a cursory view, and then offered to buy them by weight at sixpence per pound. The bargain was at once concluded, and M. Vanderberg had the books. Shortly after, Mr. Stark, a well-known London bookseller, being in Antwerp, called on M. Vanderberg, and was shown the books. He at once offered 14,000 francs for them, which was accepted. Imagine the surprise and chagrin of the poor monks when they heard of it! They knew they had no remedy, and so dumbfounded were they by their own ignorance, that they humbly requested M. Vanderberg to relieve their minds by returning some portion of his large gains. He gave them 1,200 francs. The great Shakespearian and other discoveries, which were found in a garret at Lamport Hall in 1867 by Mr. Edmonds, are too well-known and too recent to need description. In this case mere chance seems to have led to the preservation of works, the very existence of which set the ears of all lovers of Shakespeare a-tingling. In the summer of 1877, a gentleman with whom I was well acquainted took lodgings in Preston Street, Brighton. The morning after his arrival, he found in the w.c. some leaves of an old black-letter book. He asked permission to retain them, and enquired if there were any more where they came from. Two or three other fragments were found, and the landlady stated that her father, who was fond of antiquities, had at one time a chest full of old black-letter books; that, upon his death, they were preserved till she was tired of seeing them, and then, supposing them of no value, she had used them for waste; that for two years and a-half they had served for various household purposes, but she had just come to the end of them. The fragments preserved, and now in my possession, are a goodly portion of one of the most rare books from the press of Wynkyn de Worde, Caxton's successor. The title is a curious woodcut with the words "Gesta Romanorum" engraved in an odd-shaped black letter. It has also numerous rude wood-cuts throughout. It was from this very work that Shakespeare in all probability derived the story of the three caskets which in "The Merchant of Venice" forms so integral a portion of the plot. Only think of that cloaca being supplied daily with such dainty bibliographical treasures!
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